The Cold Facts about Higher Education and Contingent Faculty Appointments


Although the details are shameful, it’s good to see the mainstream press publicizing the facts about higher education faculty appointments and compensation.  A recent NBC report highlights these facts from the most recent annual survey on faculty appointments and compensation conducted by the American Association of University Professors: more than 3 out of 4 faculty members in American higher education today work in low-paid, insecure (often part-time) appointments that usually offer no health or other benefits.  The median pay in these positions (often called “adjunct” positions) is $2,700 per course. 

Such employment conditions obviously make earning a livable wage difficult for many higher education faculty members, but as one adjunct professor points out in the NBC report, these kinds of appointments also cheat students who “’are not being given the quality their money is paying for, e.g. a well-rested professor who isn’t a walking zombie from holding numerous teaching jobs to barely make the rent each month.’”

It is past time for the leadership of institutional associations to acknowledge that the adverse working conditions of the large body of contingent faculty compromise students’ learning conditions. Shame on Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, for claiming that these kinds of appointments are good for students.